Robert Sanderson McCormick

Robert Sanderson McCormick

man in Victorian suit

About 1896
Born (1849 -07-26)July 26, 1849
Rockbridge County, Virginia
Died April 16, 1919 (1919 -04-16) (aged 69)
Hinsdale, Illinois
Occupation Diplomat
Spouse(s) Katherine Medill McCormick
Children Joseph M. McCormick
Robert R. McCormick
Parent(s) William Sanderson McCormick
Mary Ann Grigsby

Robert Sanderson McCormick (July 26, 1849 – April 16, 1919) was an American diplomat. Born in rural Virginia, he was part of the is extended McCormick family that became influential in Chicago.


Robert Sanderson McCormick was born July 26, 1849 on the family plantation known as Walnut Grove in Rockbridge County, Virginia.[1] His father was William Sanderson McCormick (1815–1865) and his mother was Mary Ann Grigsby (1828–1878), whose family owned the Hickory Hill plantation.

When Robert was an infant, his family moved to Chicago to join the McCormick family agricultural machinery business, which became known as International Harvester. He attended prep school at the University of Chicago and went to college at the University of Virginia.

Marriage and family

On June 8, 1876, he married Katherine van Etta "Kate" Medill (1853–1932). She was a daughter of Joseph Medill (1823–1899), who owned and managed the Chicago Tribune newspaper. They had three children:[1]

  1. Joseph Medill McCormick was born May 16, 1877. He became a US senator from Illinois.
  2. Katrina McCormick was born January 17, 1879 and died that year on July 6.
  3. Robert Rutherford McCormick was born July 30, 1880. He became the influential editor of the Chicago Tribune.


McCormick formed a partnership with his paternal cousin Hugh Leander Adams,[2] which they named McCormick & Adams, to invest in a grain elevator at St. Louis, Missouri in 1876. In the continuing national economic troubles in the aftermath of the panic of 1873, the enterprise failed.[3]:39

Politically active and a major donor to the Republican Party, in 1889 McCormick was appointed as Second Secretary of the American Legation in London, where he served from 1889 to 1892, under Minister Robert Todd Lincoln.[4] That led to his appointment as official representative for the Chicago 1893 Exhibition.

His diplomatic career took off when President William McKinley appointed him as minister to Austria-Hungary on March 7, 1901. McCormick presented his credentials on April 29, 1901, and was promoted to be the first American ambassador to Austria-Hungary on May 27, 1902. He was recalled on December 29, 1902.[5] Following this, he served as United States ambassador to Imperial Russia to 1905, and was present in St Petersburg during the Bloody Sunday protests of that year. In 1905 he replaced Horace Porter as ambassador to France.

He retired in 1907 when his health started to decline. He was replaced by Henry White. He died from pneumonia on April 16, 1919 at his home in Hinsdale, Illinois.[4] He was buried in Graceland Cemetery.[6]


Family tree


  1. 1 2 Leander James McCormick (1896). Family record and biography. p. 308.
  2. a son of Hugh Adams, who married Amanda McCormick. She was the youngest sister of his father William Sanderson McCormick.
  3. Richard Norton Smith (2003). The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, 1880–1955. Northwestern University Press. pp. 23–25. ISBN 978-0-8101-2039-6.
  4. 1 2 3 "R.S. M'Cormick, Ex-Diplomat, Dies; Father of Illinois Senator and of Chicago Tribune Editor a Pneumonia Victim". The New York Times. April 17, 1919. p. 11. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  5. "Former U.S. Ambassadors to Austria" (PDF). U.S. Embassy in Vienna. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  6. Robert Sanderson McCormick at Find a Grave
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Addison C. Harris
U.S. Ambassador to Austria-Hungary
Minister 1901–1902
Ambassador 1902
Succeeded by
Bellamy Storer
Preceded by
Charlemagne Tower, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia
Succeeded by
George v. L. Meyer
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